Peter Brown, a professor in the University of Western Ontario’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and part of the meteor physics group, confirmed that the big boom and bright light seen in the sky Sunday afternoon was, in fact, a meteoroid.
The event was caught on several dashboard cameras, Brown said, and air waves and radar data collected by his team are all on par with meteoroid activity.
Brown believes the meteoroid, coming into the atmosphere at a rate of anywhere from 11 to 73 kilometres per second, first appeared in the skies of east central Ontario late Sunday.
Following its path, Brown thinks it may have landed somewhere in the Quinte West-Stirling area.
But that’s if the meteoroid survived.
Graham Wilson, a consulting geologist based in Campbellford, said it’s possible the meteoroid splintered into dust particles well before it touched the earth’s surface.
Wilson will be involved in the hunt for Sunday’s space rock, but cautioned that he has to first determine if the meteoroid has become a meteorite.
Most people mistake meteors for meteorites, Wilson explained.
A meteor is something that’s often referred to as a shooting star.
That, Wilson said, is just a speck of dust, often no larger than a pebble, burning up in the sky.
They are small, Wilson said, but give off fantastic amounts of energy when they burn up 150 kilometres above the earth’s surface.
A meteoroid is something falling through the atmosphere toward the earth. It becomes a meteorite when it lands on earth, and those can be the size of a pea to something that weighs several tons.
Assuming that something has landed on earth, the meteorite would be a charred-black colour, weigh more than a normal rock and likely have a magnetic pull to it.
The inside of a meteorite looks a lot like grey cement, Wilson explained, with flecks of shiny metal throughout.
They aren’t hot. Wilson pointed out that most people are able to spot meteoroids when they’re 30 kilometres above ground, a height more than times greater than Mount Everest.
It’s cold up there. Wilson said the meteoroid’s temperature plummets as it falls. It also slows dramatically, dropping to speeds of about 100 km/h.
Ownership of the meteorite depends on where the meteorite lands, Wilson said. If it’s on Crown land, anyone can claim it. If it’s in a national or provincial park it’ll belong to the federal or provincial government, and if it lands on private property than the owner of that land now owns the meteorite.
Once a meteorite is found it has to be classified and named. It will also be appraised to determine its worth.
It’s a tricky process, Wilson said, and while meteorites always have some value, they’re not always worth a lot.
“Some people have the impression that if they find a meteorite they’re set for life,” Wilson said.
Anyone who believes they may have found pieces of the meteorite can call Wilson at 807-620-5506.
According to the American Meteor Society
The American Meteor Society estimates the starting point of the meteor to be around the Warkworth area of Northumberland County, ending around the Stirling and Quinte West area.